Perry County too much for Wartburg

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (The Tennessean) — Perry County hasn’t lost a game since Wayne County hit a 45-foot shot at the buzzer in the District 12-A championship on Feb. 21.

On Friday, the Vikings will face a team that made a shot from 75 feet to keep its season alive Thursday.

Jacob Tucker and Cannon Rhodes scored 17 points, leading Perry County to a 71-43 win over Wartburg in a Class A boys quarterfinal at MTSU’s Murphy Center on Thursday.

Perry County (29-4) will play defending champion Lake County (24-9) in a semifinal at 5 p.m. Friday. Derrick Swift’s shot from near the foul line at the buzzer sent Lake County to overtime in a win over Booker T. Washington as Perry County waited in the hallway for its game to start.

“That game before ours may be the best high school game I’ve ever watched,” Perry County Coach Kirk Haston said. “That was a little déjà vu. We got beat on a 3-point bank shot at the buzzer on a fadeaway half-courter, so we have seen that before.”

The second-ranked Vikings have won 20 of their last 21 games, and their only setback in that stretch was 48-47 to Wayne County.

“(Swift’s shot) did bring back some memories,” said Tucker, who hit 8 of 12 from the floor. “I hate it for Booker T., but fortunately it didn’t happen to us this time. I can relate to how they felt. It’s a stomach-dropping feeling.”

It’s the second straight semifinal appearance for the Vikings, who lost to Middleton 64-56 last year.

The Vikings have won six state titles but haven’t been to the championship game since 1997.

After trailing by four at the end of the first quarter, Perry County outscored Wartburg 26-9 in the second quarter to take a 35-22 halftime lead.

Alex Fountain, a 6-foot-7 Mr. Basketball finalist, led Wartburg (25-5) with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

“My shot was falling in the first quarter and our team was playing really good,” said Fountain, who finished 6 of 19 from the floor. “But things didn’t go our way after the first half. Trying to get the ball down low and into the middle is pretty tough against their defense.”

Perry County used a 1-2-2 zone to hold Wartburg to 27.3 percent shooting from the floor. The Bulldogs made 3 of 22 3-point attempts.

“A big part of it was the zone defense and I think that was huge,” Wartburg Coach Joe Layne said. “It didn’t just slow us down offensively. I think it slowed us down defensively. That wasn’t our press out there. We’ve lived off that for a decade now, and it looked like we were standing in mud.”

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